I Stretched My Boots With Chanel No. 5 Perfume. Yes, Really.

I remember the very moment when I knew, without a doubt, that Mr. Foxypants was the man for me. It was when he said without any prompting, “I like how thick your calves are,” unintentionally complimenting the parts of my body that I hate the most.

I have fat legs.

Okay, they aren’t fat fat. But, tell that to the fashion industry. The average size 7 shoe wearer has a 14 inch calf circumference. At 15.5 inches, my calves are even too fat for most “wide shaft” boots. A childhood spent running the hills of Eugene, Oregon and my adulthood bike riding habit has resulted in permanently sturdy legs. I’ve probably wasted a week of my life shopping for off-the-rack, knee-high riding boots, that don’t make my legs look like tree trunks.

I blame Molly Ringwald.

Five years ago, I spent my last dollar (okay, it was my last $99) on a pair of vintage riding boots that zipped over my bare legs with a lot of zipper tugging and flesh squishing. Yes, I was actually willing to go on a pasta and water diet to afford these boots, even though I have to wear thick socks with them because they are a size to large for me. That’s how much I wanted them.

All this probably sounds pathetic to the thin-legged reader. But you, mademoiselle, can suck it.

The riding boots are by Miss Bergdorf, an in-store brand that was phased out in the 1980’s. Everything about these boots is fabulous, from the metallic gold leather lining to the double buckles at the boot tops. Fabulous except for the fact that I can only wear these over bare legs. At 15 inches in circumference, they are still a half inch too tight. I can’t even zip them over stretchy breeches. So much for actually wearing my riding boots on an actual horse.

I don’t know why it took me five years to get the boot’s shafts stretched to fit my calves (#27 on my master To Do list). I suspect it had something to do with spending $50 on speculative shoe repair, but really this is one of those things that I chalk up to my OCD tweakerness.

Alas, even after two weeks on Victor’s Stretch-O-nator, the boots still won’t zip without effort. Never mind that all the working out at Curves has resulted in even buffer gams. Altering the boots by adding an extra leather or elastic insert is so expensive that I might as well just save the money to put towards the $1000 cost of custom made boots for professional equestrian leg fatties.

This led me to a desperate search for alternatives. A quick google revealed a magical shoe stretching liquid. Miraculously, my local drug store carries the 4 oz. bottle of Shoe Stretch spray $3.95 Let’s just say, I couldn’t drive to the store fast enough.

At the drug store, I decided to read the ingredients of the magic Shoe Stretch just to make sure I wasn’t putting something deadly poisonous to bees, humans, or fish, onto my footwear. The main ingredients of Shoe Stretch? 50% isopropyl alcohol and water.

The magic Shoe Stretch liquid is rubbing alcohol and water.

I bought a quart of 70% isopropyl alcohol for $2.38 instead.

When I got home, I realized that I’d been too efficient with my disposal of all my empty sample bottles. I didn’t have an empty spray bottle to put the alcohol in. Luckily, the bathroom counter revealed the perfect solution (literally and figuratively).

The bottom of my vintage Chanel atomizer bottle was caked with dark brown perfume residue. The wick was also stained and yucky looking. As this perfume bottle is slated for the ebay/etsy rampage of next month, I need to wash the gunk out before I photograph it to sell online, without damaging the original paper label. So, killing two birds with one stone, I decided that I would decant 2 oz. of rubbing alcohol into the perfume bottle to clean off the residue, and then use the atomizer to spray the residue/alcohol mix onto my boots.

I ended up with 2 oz. of what looks and smells like Chanel No. 5 Eau de Cologne. I liberally squirted this extremely posh smelling mixture on the interior and exterior of the boot shafts. Then, while the leather was still slightly damp, I put on the boots.

The boots zipped up OVER my skinny jeans without trouble. Four hours later, the boots have stretched more than half an inch in circumference! For the first time in my life, I can zip my boots over my calves without my feet falling asleep.

While it’s probably the 70% rubbing alcohol that did the majority of the stretching duty, I’m giving a lot of credit to Coco Chanel. Four hours later my boots still smell pleasantly like my grandma.



  1. donna
    Posted March 13, 2015 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    it absolutely works for suede! I have a pair of white suede with fake fur that I couldn’t even zip past the shin area, after 2 times doused with alcohol and worn for about 1-2 hours I now have my reg jeans tucked in them (bit tight but wearing it this way to stretch even more) no stains on white suede and my fat calves are in there comfortably!

  2. Wendy
    Posted October 17, 2015 at 1:56 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this article. I am writing this as I sit here during the second stretching with alcohol. Bought a beautiful pair of chocolate suede “wide calf” boots from Lands End on sale for $35 two years ago. Wide calf to them is not wide enough for me. Each winter I pull them out, sigh, then pack them away. Last year I took them to a cobbler for stretching and they said they couldn’t stretch them even a 1/4″ and then rudely asked me why I even bought them! So this year I realized I waa able to painfully zip them the whole way up. My other issue is that I am 5’8″ which is supposedly normal height, but I have log legs so where the calf bump starts is about 1 and 1/2 inch below where my calf starts so they end at my upper calf and not below it. Well, before I started I barely zipped them over bare calves and now i have leggings and folded over boot socks in them. Tomorrow I may try jeans! I did see there was a spot that was darker but I think I may have gotten that area too wet and it hasnt dried thoroughly yet. Thanks again.

  3. Sandy
    Posted October 30, 2015 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this tip. I have a horrendous time finding boots for my wide calf/wide foot teenage daughter. I guess I’ll have to now find “real” leather or suede boots. Everything I find these days is “faux” or “vegan” leather. Has anyone tried this technique with “faux” suede? I doubt it will work, but I just might try it.


  4. Tina
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    Just wanted to let you know that this worked for me on faux leather boots. I ordered a pair of boots online and the calves were WAY too small, so I exchanged them for a different style that had wider calves. Unfortunately, they weren’t wide enough 🙁 I was just barely able to pull the left one up over bare skin. But my right calf is bigger than my left, so I was only able to pull the right boot a little more than halfway up. I didn’t want to exchange them AGAIN, so I asked my friend Google how to stretch boots and found your blog.

    I was able to stretch them enough to wear them over my skinny jeans!!

    FYI, I used 50% isopropyl alcohol because that’s what I had, and it worked just fine.

  5. Ginger
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    This is fabulous! Headed to the store to purchase rubbing alcohol pronto! Thank you

  6. Posted November 5, 2017 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    I bought a beautiful pair of what is suppose to be wide-calf boots on line. They are a deep burgundy color, knee height with three small chains around the back part of the heel of the boot. Although, wide-calf, will not zip over my wide-calf legs. I’m headed to store as soon as it opendopen

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